Judge and Jury: Norwich Union must ensure its members believe the hype - Norwich Union’s move towards demutualisation has the backing of the personal finance press but its PR team still faces a mammoth task in getting all members to return their s

The current welter of newspaper ads and TV commercials urging Norwich Union members to return their completed share application form by the 10 June deadline is reminiscent of a past when greed was good. Who knows, we might live to see again those memorable images of the investing public queuing up to get their applications in on time.

The current welter of newspaper ads and TV commercials urging

Norwich Union members to return their completed share application form

by the 10 June deadline is reminiscent of a past when greed was good.

Who knows, we might live to see again those memorable images of the

investing public queuing up to get their applications in on time.



In this case, from an investment perspective, the hype is justified.



Only a cruel blow from the Chancellor in his post-election budget is

likely to transform the share offer from being anything other than a

steal.



But what of the below-the-line communications masterminded by Brunswick

and sponsored by Norwich Union’s in-house team? Cynics would say that

the merits of the offer sell themselves. This is largely the case with

the personal finance writers, most of whom have given the offer an

unequivocal thumbs up. In my view, this group of journalists is among

the most underrated in the profession. Writing on a subject on which

most of us are novices, personal finance writers wield enormous

potential power. Mindful of this, there is sometimes a reticence to take

a firm stance. No such holding back here.



Among the wider group of journalists commenting on the rationale for the

flotation, the editorial climate is again positive. The rationale

appears more solid than that offered for some recent demutualisations,

and the comments from Norwich Union’s senior managers suggest that there

is a real desire to reward exsiting members first - unusual for a

financial services company.



The mini-prospectus seems clear enough, and, for those who require more

information, the availablity of the full prospectus is well

signposted.



I don’t know if it appears in the latter, but there is certainly no

reference in the summary version to the insurer’s enforced withdrawal of

its direct salesforce as a result of pressure from the regulator. Nor is

there any reference to Norwich Union’s almost total dependence on

independent financial advisers. How does NU intend to reach the wider

public who tend not to use IFAs?



But these are churlish comments. One of the real tests of the campaign’s

effectiveness will be the number of qualifying members who respond to

the various mailings and the media onslaught to claim their

windfalls.



Norwich Union stated just last week that 300,000 members had not

responded, which is a reminder of the scale of the communications task

which still lies ahead. Come back Sid, we need you.



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